Tuesday June 4, 2019
We enjoy another nice breakfast although a much earlier one than yesterday as our train to Lyon leaves at 0753. After breakfast, we check out and walk to the train station. Our train shows up on time so it looks like we will not be affected by the strike. Two hours later, we are in Lyon. We are a little apprehensive as just a few weeks ago, there was a bomb that went off outside a bakery here. We decided to keep our plans and hope that increased security, vigilance and a bit of not striking in the same place twice, will keep the wolves at bay. They did catch the suspect so that played into our thinking as well. We debate on taking the Metro to our apartment as it is just under two miles, but decide that the walk may help some with all the French calories we are consuming. It is a nice day and the walk lets us see some of the town along the way. We pass the Paul Bocuse Market along the way. Lyon is known as the true culinary center of France and Paul Bocuse was known as Lyons and perhaps as Frances best chef. In 2012, he received the Culinary Institute of America Chef of the Century award. He died in 2018 and the city of Lyon named their market after him. We continue and cross the River Rhone onto Presque Isle (between the Rivers Rhone and Saone) which is where our apartment is located. A few narrow side streets and we find the apartment and ring the bell of the owners who live in the same building. Although it is only 1030, they have agreed to hold our packs in their apartment so we can explore the city. Julie opens the door and tells us the apartment is ready so we can leave our packs there and her husband will check us in later this evening. Our apartment is 6 flights and 150 steps up (no elevator) but is worth the climb. Julie shows us the basics and then leaves us to get settled in. We are on the top of the building with great views toward the Notre Dame Basilica of Fourviere located on a hilltop across the Saone River. The apartment is very nice with a kitchen, sitting area, and a separate bedroom. There is a small balcony outside where we can sit and have some evening wine.
We go back down the many stairs without the weight of our full packs and head toward the Tourist Information Center. Along the way, we experience some great architecture, squares, and fountains. We buy the Lyon City Card which will let us see most of the museums and sights for free and also includes the metro and buses. It is a 48-hour card from the time of activation so we have planned on activating later this afternoon so we can use it on the next two full days. We leave the Information Center and decide to start our sightseeing with the aforementioned Notre Dame Basilica. We leave Presque Isle and cross the River Saone. This side of the river houses Vieux Lyon or Old Lyon. The Basilica is located above town on top of Fourviere Hill and although there is a funicular, Carol chooses to try and kill me by making us walk up. Maybe we actually decided this together. We reach the base of the climb which starts with a steep stair stepper. The stairs end up on a street, but wait there’s more. Crossing the street, we continue climbing up a seemingly never-ending series of paths and steps. Legs burning, we reach a view area just below the Basilica. From here, we can see a good portion of Lyon, looking across the Saone River and Presque Isle to the city beyond. We can see the barrel-vaulted Opera House and two skyscrapers which have been nicknamed Le Crayon (the pencil) and La Gomme (the eraser) by the locals. It is a little too hazy to see Mont Blanc far off in the distance. We enjoy the view while catching our breath before climbing the last few steps to the Basilica.
In 1870, the Bishop of Lyon vowed to build a tribute to the Virgin Mary, if the Prussians spared the city. They did, and the construction of the Basilica began in 1872. The church was ready for worship just before WWI. As we enter the Basilica, we notice that the walls, floor, and ceiling are covered with elaborate mosaics many which tell the story of the Virgin Mary. The mosaics include the following stories. In 431, the Council of Ephesus declare Mary to be the Mother of God. In 1429, Joan of Arc hears messages from Mary and rallies the French against the English at the Siege of Orleans. In 1571, at the sea battle of Lepanto, Mary provides the miracles needed for the outnumbered Christian forces to defeat the Ottomans. In addition to the history of the mosaics, they are also very beautiful. There is also a lower church which is dedicated to Joseph. The small adjacent 16th century chapel is topped by the glorious golden statue of Mary that overlooks the City of Lyon. There is only one thing left to do at this point and that is to descend the over 650 steps and paths back down to the river level.
Back down in old Lyon, we come to St. Jean Cathedral. The cathedral is mostly gothic and took 200 years to build. It is the seat of the Bishop of Lyon (Primate of the Gauls) serving what is considered the oldest Christian city in France. There is a beautiful wood carved altar and the stained-glass dates back to the 13th and 14th century. What stands out in this church is a medieval astronomical clock from 1383 which has survived numerous wars including the French Revolution. Its mechanism can compute Catholic holidays including those that change each year like Easter. Outside we stroll a bit through Old Lyon. This part of the city has some of the best concentration of well-preserved renaissance buildings in the country. Lyon prospered and grew rich from trade fairs, banking, and the silk industry. Many of the pastel buildings were inspired by Italy and contain Italian type courtyards inside off the street. We come across a street group playing music for the ambling pedestrians. We listen for a while and then head to our next stop.
The Cinema and Miniature Museum highlights props, special effects, and miniatures used in the film industry. It is the first museum we will visit using our Lyon City Card. We activate our cards at the entrance and head in. There are many items and displays from movies such as Return of the Jedi, Men in Black, Jurassic Park, Terminator and a long list of others. The building winds up over 6 floors and it is really fascinating to see all the items they have. There are just a few teasers in the pictures below. After the props and special effects section, we come to the miniature displays. The details in these tiny sets is amazing. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work it must be to build one of these microscopic rooms. We did not know what to expect in here but thoroughly enjoyed it and spent about two hours absorbing the information and viewing the movie history.
Exiting the museum, we walk through old town and across the river back towards our apartment. Michael, the owner comes up to officially check us in. We chat for a while and he gives us many tips on places to eat and areas of his city to explore. After he leaves, we decide we will just go to the store, cook ourselves, and then enjoy a beverage on our little balcony. It is definitely the right decision as we enjoy the French ambience and the beautifully lit up night views from our rooftop perch. It has been a satisfying and busy day but there is still much in store for us to explore in Lyon. Looking forward to tomorrow. La vie est bonne (Life is good).
Train from Annecy to Lyon 56E
Les Toits de Lyon Apartment 99E
Lyon City Cards 63.80E
Cinema and Miniature Museum 18E (free with the Lyon City Card)
Charcuterie, Fruits, Beer, and Wine 31.34E
Miles Walked 8 Miles Stairs Climbed and Descended 1800 (Ugh)